Saturday, April 23, 2016

Crisp Potato Cake (Galette de Pomme de Terre)

As part of my Paris "Try the World" box, I received a jar of persillade as well as some large grain salt. This was not a term in cooking that I was familiar with, but I looked at the ingredients on the jar and set it aside figuring I'd use it in a meat or fish dish in the future. It includes parsley, onion, garlic, and salt and they are all dried little bits. Little did I know that I would have a chance to use this item with a potato dish far sooner than expected.

Aside from the persillade, this is actually a dish with fairly conventional ingredients. It's also simple, but creates a version of a potato dish that isn't common due to the effort that goes into slicing potatoes super thing, slow cooking the "cake," and carefully flipping it over. The persillade merely adds some flavor depth at the end which definitely raises the bar on this. The real star is the textural complexity of the crispy potatoes on the outside and tender ones on the inside. The devil is in the details in getting this right.

The instructions for this potato cake - which sounds so much more impressive when you call it by its French name of Galette de Pomme de Terre - makes it clear that overly starchy or wet potatoes will create issues for the dish so I decided to do what I could to avoid either of these interfering with a good result. I sliced the potatoes to 1.5 mm on a mandolin and then rinsed them three times then let them soak in cold water in the refrigerator for over five hours. This hydrated the potatoes and allowed a lot of the external starch to wash off. When I was ready to make the dish, I laid out a kitchen towel and laid the potatoes out on it in a single layer then put another towel on top and allowed them to dry between them for about a half hour. 

Other than that extra care, I made a persillade by putting a tablespoon of oil into a small glass dish and a half teaspoon of my dry persillade mix in it and heating it in the microwave. I let that sit around a bit as well to allow the flavors to mix a bit and soften up the herbs. This was what I planned to drizzle on the finished galette.

Mine looked like this:

My photo isn't great-looking because it was taken at night with a flash, but this was a really tasty dish. The textural elements were an absolute delight. My husband likened it to a potato chip on the outside. The complexity the olive oil and herb drizzle gave it was just enough to liven it up a bit. 

I not only will make this again, but will make it two days in a row because it was such a hit. It's also really not that hard to do. You just have to be patient and a little careful. It was far easier to flip over than I expected and cooked faster than I anticipated. I did use a non-stick pan, however, because I don't have a cast iron pan at this time and I don't trust my stainless steel not to create a problem. I don't think it suffered any for the choice and it certainly did not stick despite the fact that I forgot to intermittently shake it to stop it from sticking.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Try the World: Tom Yum Soup (Thailand Box)

When I lived in Tokyo, I bought curry mixes which were little more than a cardboard sleeve filled with plastic packets of spices on a few occasions. I wanted to produce something that was more authentic than Japanese curry, which is more like a spicy beef stew than a true curry. Unfortunately, my results with these mixes were lifeless and thin.

I've since gotten a lot better at making curry thanks to the copious amounts of advice on the internet for doing a better job with Indian cuisine. I am still, however, wary of mixes that are little more than plastic packets of spices. I associate them with the same failures I had in the past, but I also wonder if they are "enough" to produce a dish of complexity and depth. So, it was with no small level of skepticism that I looked at the dry spices and had my doubts.

The instructions say to use mushroom, onion, "lemonade." I interpreted that as "lemon juice" as I believe it's a poor translation. For the meat/seafood portion, I opted to use tilapia fish because I had tons of it in the freezer. I cooked the onion a bit longer than it said (1 minute) because I don't like the sharper flavors of raw onion in soup, but otherwise followed the instructions faithfully.

The soup smelled great and I was very careful not to overcook the fish since that could make it rubbery. The lemongrass was the strongest aroma, followed by the pandan. I did not question the portions of the spices that I used because the end of the recipe said one could add Thai chili paste for more heat. I don't have this item, but I figured I could shape in some red chili flakes if it was bland.

It turned out that this was far from an issue. I'm quite tolerant of heat in my dishes, but this was nuclear hot from the plethora of dried chilies. It would stun me if anyone felt this needed more chili. I had to add in coconut milk and mix the soup with rice to make it tolerate. It was stunningly hot.

Though this was really tasty, I wished I'd been warned about how hot it would be. I think that half the number of chilies would have worked better for my tastes. For people who are even less intolerant, I'd think no more than three would do. The other issue with this was that the spices remained too hard to consume when the soup was done. I had to laboriously pluck them all out each time I ate it.

This was very good and I'm glad that it was included in the box. I wish I had known more about it before I had prepared it so I could have made more adjustments to suit my tastes. I can say that the fish went well with this and I think this is a fantastic way to have seafood in your diet. If you don't care for it, the soup is so flavorful that you can't really taste the fish.